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Drawn to the Music Guidelines

Music – Appalachian Spring Suite by Aaron Copland.

Drawn to the Music 2023 Teacher Instructions


Thank you for participating. Instructions are below.  If you have questions feel free to call Toni at 603-785-8770 or email   


1. Listen to the inspiration piece: See above and below for reference.


2. Ask students to illustrate as many scenes as possible for consideration.

3. Please use paper/canvas no larger than 8.5" x 11". Please use fixative on pastels and be sure oil/acrylics are dry before sending the artwork to the NH Phil.

4. Clearly label each submission on the back with student name, grade, teacher's name, and the title of the scene being depicted.  Submissions without this information will not be considered. 

5. The number of works chosen for display will depend on the total number of submissions.

6. Please send all submissions by December 31, 2022 to:

NH Philharmonic

Attn: Drawn to the Music

P.O. Box 1651

Concord, NH 03302

7. Music – Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland. Several performances of the music are available on You Tube and streaming music sites.

Appalachian Spring, ballet by Aaron Copland, first performed in Washington, D.C., on October 30, 1944. The ballet, which won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1945, contains some of the composer’s most familiar music, particularly his set of variations on the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts.” Appalachian Spring was commissioned in 1942 by the American patron of the arts Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, who requested a new ballet for the dancer and choreographer Martha Graham.

The ballet depicts the day of a wedding celebration at a Pennsylvania farmhouse in the early 20th century. It opens at dawn with a gentle theme for strings and winds. The characters are introduced: the revivalist preacher, the pioneer woman, the young couple to be married, and the preacher’s followers. There is a lively general dance, then a prayer scene, and then a pas de deux danced by the young couple.

The sweet interlude erupts into joyous dancing as the wedding is celebrated. Still, the couple remain apprehensive about their new life, and the music carries a somber undertone. Only the strength of their older neighbors and the faith of a revivalist meeting (conveyed by Copland’s direct quotation of the hymn “Simple Gifts”) provide reassurance. At last, taking courage from those around them, the wedding couple stand in their new home. Copland’s score concludes as serenely as it began, ending the day with the same chords with which dawn was evoked.”


The original scoring called for a chamber ensemble of thirteen instruments. The suite arrangement for symphony orchestra that The Phil will perform was made by the composer in the Spring of 1945. It is a condensed version of the ballet, retaining all essential features but omitting those sections in which the interest is primarily choreographic.


The orchestral suite is divided into eight sections. Copland describes each scene thus:

  1. Very slowly. Introduction of the characters, one by one, in a suffused light.

  2. Fast. Sudden burst of unison strings in arpeggios starts the action. A sentiment both elated and religious gives the keynote to this scene.

  3. Moderate. Duo for the Bride and her Intended – scene of tenderness and passion.

  4. Quite fast. The Revivalist and his flock. Folksy feeling – suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers.

  5. Still faster. Solo dance of the Bride – presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy, fear, and wonder.

  6. Very slowly at first. Transition scene to music reminiscent of the introduction.

  7. Calm and flowing. Scenes of daily activity for the Bride and her Farmer husband. There are five variations on a Shaker theme. The theme, sung by a solo clarinet, was taken from a collection of Shaker melodies compiled by Edward D. Andrews, and published under the title "The Gift to Be Simple." The melody borrowed and used almost literally is called "Simple Gifts."

  8. Moderate. The Bride takes her place among her neighbors. At the end, the couple are left "quiet and strong in their new house." Muted strings intone a hushed prayerlike chorale passage. The close is reminiscent of the opening music.


Your students can illustrate the story directly or create their own “variations” on the theme of spring, the mountains, farming, farmhouses, the Shakers, approaching the future with hope, marriage, and other themes evoked by the music. All these themes will enrich the visual presentation we will coordinate with the Philharmonic’s performance of Appalachian Spring.

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